Wheelmen Reading Notes
My raw notes from the book Wheelmen.
Nearly all men can withstand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. — Abraham Lincoln
- When Lance Armstrong admitted to doping after years of aggressively lying, he didn’t reveal the details of who helped him dope, where he got drugs, how severe his usage was, and the tricks he used to evade drug tests and anti-doping authorities.
- Cycling was dominant in European countries. Until the 1970s, it was a working man’s sport. It was not glamorous nor did riders make much money.
- When the U.S. got into cycling, the landscape changed. They commercialized it. Greg LeMond made cycling’s first $1 million salary in 1991. Armstrong earned $4.5 million in 2004, which was small compared to his endorsement deals.
- There were a small group of Americans who wanted to turn the US into a major cycling player.
- Armstrong was brought up in a comfortable, middle class home. He was self-indulgant. He craved attention, support, and reassurance. Lance reads extensively, including everything written about him.
- In 2010, Floyd Landis exposed the US Postal team’s doping practices. Travis Tygart was the head of the underfunded US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and was responsible for going after Armstrong and his team.
Chapter 1 : True Blue
- The author is showing an example of the power that drugs gave athletes thru an example of the 2004 TdF.
- July 2004: Armstrong 5 minutes behind the leader (Thomas Voeckler) on the most grueling day of the tour. After the first climb, they gained a minute on the leader. They were flying. Up the last climb of the day, they looked comfortable while other teams suffered.
- Landis explained (in 2010) the doping process used by the US Postal team:
- They started doing transfusions in 2001.
- Two blood transfusions per tour.
- Blood was taken from each athlete in spring or early summer.
- In the weeks leading up to the tour, they did transfusions to improve training.
- Blood was transferred into France during the race by car.
- The people investigating wondered why Landis was telling them this. Landis’ life was shattered. He went thru a divorce.
- His relationship with Armstrong ended in a bitter feud.
- The book opens in the 2004 Tour de France. They were on stage 13 — a tough stage. Armstrong was 5 min behind the leader. The U.S. Postal team flew up the hills and crushed the field. The fans were cheering, some yelling “doper doper”. Landis was pulling for Armstrong. Even after Armstrong was well ahead in the overall standings, he still pushed hard to win the stage, beating a rider who was way back in the standings and just wanted a strong finish. Armstrong was proving he was tenacious or simply arrogant. Armstrong went on to win the TdF.
- After one of the stages, Armstrong would leave his team and fly off with his girlfriend (Cheryl Crow) for the night. Shows he was arrogant, full of himself. Feeling above his team.
- In 2010 Floyd Landis’ life was in rough shape. He gained weight, got divorced, and had a bitter break up with Armstrong. Landis confessed the drug charges and whistle blew on Armstrong.
- They told a story about faking a bus breakdown to do blood transfusions to evade the French police who accused the Postal team of doping.
Chapter 2 : A new beginning for American cycling
- Eddie Borysewicz (Eddie). Came to America in 1976 after a divorce with his wife who cheated on him. He was a racer in the 50s and 60s. Was mis-diagnosed with tuberculosis. The treatment left him weak and unable to complete in the Olympics.
- He met Mike Fraysse, who was the top official in the 76 Olympic cycling events.
- Started training cyclists – including Greg LeMond.
- Fraysse made Eddie the US National Team coach.
- In the 84 Olympics, the US started doping. They setup informal testing to allow the athletes to determine how long drugs stayed in their system.
- Jim Ochowicz: Started building a US pro cycling team. Och was an olympic speed skater. made the 72 and 76 Olympic team in track cycling. Och met Eric Heiden — Olympic speed skater. Och got Heiden into cycling. Built a team around Heiden. Started getting sponsors (7–11).
- Eddie’s Olympic and Och’s pro teams were overlapping for the 84 Olympic teams.
- Eddie and Och clashed. Eddie was a trainer. Och was a manager (sponsors, money).
- Eddie was OK with blood transfusions. He thought it wouldn’t cause long term harm, like drugs.
- Eddie was asked to coach a rich masters athlete named Thom Weisel. Weisel was a rich investment banker who went on to fund and manage many US teams.
- Weisel asked Eddie to make him national track champion in exchange for Weisel making Eddie a millionaire. Eddie did it — Weisel won the masters track championship. Weisel didn’t quite make Eddie a millionaire.
- After winning the masters championship, Weisel wanted to fund a national cycling team and compete in the TdF.
Chapter 3 : A Rage to Win
- Introduction of Lance Armstrong. Lance started off as a triathlete Lance liked solo endurance athletics because he controlled his own destiny.
- Lance’s mom had him at 16. She was poor — her parents wanted nothing to do with her.
- Lance’s biological Dad left when lance was young. Terry, Linda’s second boyfriend, started bringing Lance to races. He was tough on Lance. If Lance started to cry, he told him they had to leave.
- Lance was very driven. He taught himself how to swim.
- Lance didn’t want anything to do with Terry. Terry brought Lance and his two triathlete friends to races in Texas.
- When Lance was 15, he met a sales rep from Avia, Scott Eder. Scott helped lance get a $400/month sponsorship from Richardson Bike Mart (and a free bike).
- At 15, Lance was placing high in international races against the pros.
Lance had a lot of attitude, anger. He acted like a spoiled brat.
- Terry helped Lance, bought him a car, but Lance hated Terry.
Lance was VO2 tested as a minor — he scored really high.
- When Lance graduated high school, he was cocky.
- Eddie B was told about Lance — went to see if he could recruit him. Lance was looking for money and wondered if cycling would be as lucrative as triathlon.
- Eddie B trained LeMond, who earned $1m a year. Lance signed on with the Subaru Montgomery Team — which Eddie and Thom Weisel managed.
- Lance would earn $12,000 a year. Lance worked very hard. He was tough to talk to, wouldn’t listen. Lance didn’t like helping other riders, wanted everything for himself.
- Lance raced for the US National team and pissed off the Subaru Montgomery team (Eddie B and Weisel).
Chapter 4 : The First Million
- Jim Ochowicz landed Motorola as a sponsor and was looking for talent. Ochowicz went for Armstrong.
- Lance competed in the 92 Olympics. He ended up 14th — disappointing finish.
- Lance entered his first pro race and finished last. Armstrong trained hard and in 1993, won a 3-race $1 million race series.
- In 1993, LeMond pulled out of the tour, he couldn’t compete with riders on EPO.
- Armstrong became the youngest rider to win a stage of the TdF in 1993. And a World Championship.
- Lance was tough to deal with. His Mom asked for help to deal with him. She asked LeMond to help – but LeMond didn’t know what to say. He knew Lance was tough.
- LeMond retired in 1994. Lance didn’t give him any respect.
In 1994, Lance was complaining that other teams were using EPO. Lance wanted the Motorola team to use it too.
- In 1995, Armstrong hired Bill Stapleton as his agent. Stapleton got deals with Nike, Oakley, Giro — and made performance based bonuses.
- The 1995 TdF, a Motorola rider died. Armstrong finished his 1st TdF in 36th place.
- In 1995, Lance met Michele Ferarri. Ferarri was a mastermind behind EPO and Lance’s drug program. Ferarri would coach Lance, was very into statistics (watt measurement and drug planning).
- Lance was dating a lot of women. In 1996, Armstrong had a great year — won a lot of races. He had two bad parts of 1996 — he finished 12th in the 1996 Olympics and dropped out of the TdF.
Chapter 5 — Teamwork
- Mark Gorski — retired track cyclist — worked for USA Cycling. Re-united with Thom Weisel (they were previously friends). Weisel hired Gorski to help raise money for his team.
- Gorski landed USPS as a sponsor starting in 1996. They projected the team’s first TdF entry would be 1998.
- In the fall of 1996, Lance’s Motorola team was folding. Armstrong was given a 2 year contract by the USPS team for 1997 / 1998 at $1 million a year. Gorski also landed Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton.
- In the fall of 1996, Lance started having pain in his testicle. He was diagnosed with cancer. It also spread to his head. He had brain surgery and the cancer was killed.
- Armstrong was asked if he took drugs. He said he took EPO, testostrone, and others. Many of his friends were there — this would come back to haunt Armstrong in the future.
- In January 1997, Lance was cured. He met his first wife, Kristin Richards.
Armstrong started his Livestrong foundation in 1997.
In 1997, the USPS team had a few drug doctors.
Chapter 6 : Sit ins and saddle sores
- Armstrong thought about sex a lot — was with a lot of girls. He married Kristin Richard in May 1998, a few years after beating cancer.
- He was not into riding that year, but wanted to fulfill his obligations with the Postal team. He was not the lead rider and wasn’t putting in effort.
- He thought about retiring. He did some soul searching and decided to ride again.
- Anger drove Armstrong. He used anger to push him.
- Armstrong was very into self monitoring and stats collection.
- Armstrong was asked to ride in the TdF with USPS but passed.
- In the 1998 tour, the Postal team’s assistant (Emma O’Reilly) helped them avoid getting caught with drugs by fending off the Irish police.
- The TdF had rampant drug use. All teams were cheating. The French police were trying hard to catch the riders. The riders had to get more sophisticated. In 1998, the riders staged a “sit-in” to protest the French police.
- LeMond was upset that Thom Weisel (manager / investor in USPS) supported drug use. LeMond didn’t trust him (Weisel wasn’t ethical) and broke all ties.
- Weisel’s company was bought, so he got out of owning the USPS team.
Lance hired an ex-racer Johan Bruyneel) to be the team manager (head coach). A strategic thinker who convinced Armstrong he could win the TdF. Lance dedicated himself to winning the TdF. He worked hard and dedicated his life to winning in 1999.
- Armstrong started to distance himself from his former friends. He seems to use people and leave them.
- Armstrong trained for and won the tour in 1999. They were winning so big they stopped EPO mid race.
- LeMond was trying to encourage Armstrong, but Armstrong was not interested in LeMond. Armstrong thought LeMond could not help him and was not necessary to have around. He was rude to him.
- In 1999, Lance tested positive for drugs. He lied — saying he needed testosterone treatment for saddle soreness. He was let off the hook.
Chapter 7 : Lance Armstrong Incorporated
- After his 1999 TdF win, the media was all over Armstrong. He wrote his biography It’s not about the bike: my journey back to life. Nike was all over him.
- The USPS was making a lot of money (which will come into play later, when USPS sues Armstrong).
- Gorski and Weisel started Tailwind Sports to fund the team. They met with a bunch of CEOs and rich people to fund the team.
- Weisel was managing investments for the UCI (Union Cyclists International) — administered drug tests and policed doping in the sport.
- The head of the UCI, Hien Verbruggen, had his investments managed by Weisel. Weisel and the postal team was also paying Verbruggen.
Chapter 8 : Hematocrits and Hypocrites
- In 2000, the team had more money, better drugs, and ways to cheat tests.
He won the 2000 TdF. The team doctors were caught disposing medical waste, including EPO and testosterone.
- LeMond was told that the postal team was doping. Also, the team paid $500,000 to Hein Verbruggen to cover up the 1999 positive drug test.
- In 2001, Lance was almost found EPO positive in a test. The test was later ruled too close to call. Armstrong blasted people that used drugs — calling them cheats who wanted to bring down the sport.
- Ferarri (Armstrong’s drug doctor) was convicted of trafficking EPO. Armstrong was forced to admit he was working with Ferarri in the past. Claimed Ferarri was training him, not offering drugs. Lance made up a story with his coach, Chris Carmichael and downplayed his role with Ferarri.
- Lance new his relationship with Ferarri was suspicious. He defended himself by pointing to the fact he hasn’t tested positive.
- Lance denied drug use to everyone. Even the president of his foundation.
Lance doubled the bonuses of his teammates.
- In 2001, to get around random drug tests, the team started transfusions.
In his book, Lance described himself as a family man, offended by porn. Landis thought it was extreme.
Chapter 9 : Domestic Discord and the Domestique
- In 2001, Landis made the TdF team without using drugs. The team forced him to use drugs.
- The UCI was corrupt — paid off. It had no respect from riders.
Landis didn’t think of the drugs as cheating. They didn’t give him powers, but helped recovery. Also he knew everyone was doing them.
- Lance’s family life was falling apart. His mom remarried. Lance didn’t attend his friend JTs funeral. He was dating other women. He got divorced in 2003.
Chapter 10 : A New Gear
- He started dating Cheryl Crow in 2004. Nike executives got the idea for the yellow bracket from watching Kevin Garnett wear a bracelet.
- Armstrong got a team from Trek to create highly advanced equipment. He didn’t end up using it.
- Armstrong hired a professor to create a narrative that he was a physical specimen. This is the story that America was given on Armstrong. He was forced to admit to a few mistakes. Armstrong was controlling his image.
- Landis was actually stronger than Armstrong.
- David Walsh wrote a book called L.A. Confidential that detailed Lance’s drug use. Armstrong’s lawyers worked hard to kill the book.
In 2005, the French had a test for EPO. They retested Armstrong’s 1999 samples and he tested positive.
Chapter 11 : Adieu and fuck you
- Landis won the 2006 tour. When asked about doping he said “I’d say no”— which admitted he was guilty. He now had to fight the charges or come clean. He was being pressured to not come clean. He lost his title.
Chapter 12 : The Comeback (again)
- In 2007 he started a lot of business ventures. He tried to buy the sport of cycling, but couldn’t make it happen.
- In September 2008, Armstrong returned to cycling. He was on a team with Contador for a while — then started the Radio Shack team.
- When he rode with Contador, Contador won the tour. But Armstrong was pushing himself to win as well — which ticked off Contador.
- Armstrong’s drug tests were more of the same : highly scrutinized, questionably off, and the UCI (who was paid off by Armstrong) defended him.
Chapter 13 : Betrayals
- Landis denied doping for 3 years, went broke defending himself. Came clean in 2010 — speaking with Trais Tygert (USADA). Landis was the key whistleblower.
- Armstrong was using underhanded tactics to persuade people from siding with Landis. Bribery, threats, proposed lawsuits.
- Landis agreed to wear a recoding device to frame another questionable racing team (Rock Racing).
Chapter 14 : The Chase
- Landis’ doping claims hit the headlines. Lance dismissed Landis as out for revenge. Lance hired a bunch of lawyers to fight the charges.
- From 2010–2012 A Federal Inquiry was took place. After 2 years, the federal investigators dropped their charges. Lance was not charged.
- The USASA couldn’t press criminal charges, they have the power to strip Lance of his titles. They started an investigation.
Chapter 15 : Scorched Earth
- In 2012, Lance started racing triathlons. He was strong — winning and placing high.
- The Justice Department was considering joining Landis’ whistleblower lawsuit.
- The USADA could take away Lance’s titles and ban him from triathlon competition. Lance tried to countersue, but the judge dismissed it. He said if Armstrong was truly innocent, he should go to arbitration and fight.
- Lance did not challenge the USADA’s charges — saying that he was tired of fighting.
- Lance verbally accused the USADA of a witch hunt, and be-raided them.
- The USADA made their evidence public on October 10, 2012.
Even after the report was released, his sponsors stood behind him.
Chapter 16 : Not a Snitch
- Nike was reported as contributing to the doping program. Nike denied the allegations.
- Nike asked Lance’s lawyer to confirm nothing in the report was true. The lawyer couldn’t, and Nike dropped Armstrong.
- Lance was sued by people who insured his victories. They were suing Lance for their money back ($12 million).
- The USADA encouraged the Justice Department to join Landis’ lawsuit — accusing Armstrong of economic fraud of the US Postal Service for $40 million.
- Lance admitted to doping on the Oprah show.
- The Justice Department joined Landis’ lawsuit.
- The author’s badger the American people for believing and supporting Armstrong while he was clearly lying — until they had no choice but to accept Lance was a cheat. And once the public turned on him, they turned hard.
- Lance could be back. He’s dedicated, determined, strong.
- Lance considers himself a hero. A hero for beating cancer and helping people.
- Some riders (Hincapie) are ticked that the USADA did this. He claims the investigation doesn’t help the sport.